Even before I started regularly reviewing crime novels just over a year ago, I read a fair amount of crime fiction. I always have. It has probably been my favourite type of reading (for pleasure) since I started out with The Hardy Boys stories, and then Agatha Christie's Poirot, when I was a young kid at school. But like any reader, particularly it seems those that read crime (no matter how widely), I've had a few favourite 'read everything they put out' authors. That list is rapidly increasing, the more great authors I discover, as I purposely read more and more widely.
But looking back on the few years immediately before my reviewer days (from 2002 or so onwards), there were three novelists that stood out for me as sitting at the top of the crime-writing tree, whenever friends or family asked who I thought was particularly good; James Lee Burke, Michael Connelly, and Mark Billingham. For quite a while many people down here in New Zealand would ask me "who was that third one again?", but I'm happy to say that in recent times it seems Billingham's 'name' has now (deservedly) grown in stature down here too.
I do now consciously try to put my personal historic preferences aside when I'm reviewing, and just judge a book on its storytelling merits (e.g there were several crime novels that came out last year that I rated more highly than Michael Connelly's NINE DRAGONS, which I did enjoy, even though I still consider Connelly an all-time fave overall). But, like any reader or reviewer, the thought of upcoming books from particular authors still fills me with anticipation.
After particularly enjoying Billingham's BLOOD LINE last year (one of my favourite crime novels of 2009), I was keen to find out what the British comedian-turned-author had in store for readers next. And hoping it was another DI Tom Thorne tale, as good as Billingham's standalone, IN THE DARK, was.
So I'm pleased to share/spread some news about Billingham's tenth crime novel, FROM THE DEAD - the ninth instalment in the Thorne series. The publisher's blurb (from Amazon.co.uk) states: "When Donna Langford receives a very recent photo of her ex-husband in the post, she gets the shock of her life. Because she's just spent ten years in prison for organising his murder. When her daughter goes missing, Donna believes there can only be one man responsible and hires Anna Carpenter, a determined young private investigator, to find him. DI Tom Thorne worked on the Alan Langford case, so when Carpenter brings the photo to him, he refuses to believe that the man whose body was found in a burned-out car ten years before can still be alive. But when a prison inmate that he and Anna interview is viciously murdered, Thorne starts to understand that Langford is not only alive, but ready to get rid of anyone who could threaten his comfortable new life in Spain..."
Like Connelly with Harry Bosch in NINE DRAGONS (where Harry ends up in Hong Kong), Billingham is taking his beloved hero offshore, and far out of his comfort zone, in this latest novel.
Billingham has shared an extract from the book on the Lit Sutra website, which you can read here. And in more good news for Thorne fans, production on the series of television movies based on Billingham's bestselling and award-winning books is underway, with a stellar cast, led by David Morrissey as Thorne, on board.
Thoughts and comments welcome.